Jerry Jones had early feeling about Romo

IRVING, Texas -- Jerry Jones knows firsthand how quickly Tony Romo can think on his feet.

The Dallas Cowboys owner and general manager remembers standing in a small coaches' locker room at Texas Stadium with Bill Parcells and Romo before a preseason game in 2006 against the Minnesota Vikings. The Cowboys wanted Romo to sign an extension, but Romo wanted the team to make a financial commitment to him that would force them to play him at some point if Drew Bledsoe faltered.

Jones said he and Parcells were "stepping on his toes pretty good."

"It had a little shakedown feel to it," Romo joked.

Romo told them he would sign if incentives in the offer were turned into base salary. Jones said yes. Parcells smiled.

"We got us a quarterback," Jones recalled Parcells saying after Romo walked out of the room.

Romo would not make his first start with the Cowboys until the seventh game of that season. He will make the 100th regular-season start of his career Sunday against the Philadelphia Eagles. And Jones still believes the Cowboys "got us a quarterback."

Last March, Jones affirmed his commitment to Romo with a six-year extension worth $108 million and $55 million guaranteed. He also saw the quarterback think fast on his feet again, calling for more involvement in the game-planning process with the coaches before signing the deal

"He sees the whole picture," Jones said, "and I'm not just talking about an open receiver."

Only Hall of Famers Roger Staubach (114) and Troy Aikman (165) have started more games for the Cowboys at quarterback than Romo.

Staubach was a Heisman Trophy winner. Aikman was a No. 1 overall pick. Romo was undrafted.

Yet Jones knew there was something about the quarterback almost immediately when he heard complaints from the Cowboys' defense in practices.

"They'd all holler, 'He's not playing it the right way. We're not going to see that in the game,'" Jones said. "You saw his point guard mentality and his ability to make it up. There's no question that his natural awareness and his ability to see things, you can't teach that. None of this is coachable. None of what he does is coachable. It can be supervised differently than your traditional coaching."

His first start came Oct. 29, 2006, at Carolina. Romo got a bad haircut the week of the game and told NBC before the game his girlfriend broke up with him the previous week. His eighth pass of the game was intercepted, but he finished completing 24 of 36 throws for 270 yards with a touchdown in the Cowboys' 35-14 win against the Panthers.

"Anybody at any level in the organization really knew we would get some juice from Romo offensively," Jones said.

The Cowboys won four of Romo's first five starts, a season was saved and a quarterback was found.

As he enters start No. 100, he is the franchise leader in touchdown passes (191) and second to Aikman in attempts, yards and completions. He owns the Cowboys' season marks for attempts (648), completions (425), yards (4,903) and touchdowns (36).

"Start 1 you don't really know," Romo said. "You're excited about the opportunity to go out and prove to yourself if you can actually do this. Start 100, it's all about getting your team to where you want to go and leading a group of men and trying to take them there, and that would be one difference. It's a little more individual related starting off to prove to yourself that you can play, and start 100 it's about bringing the team there and winning and accomplishing team goals and that's really what it's all about, accomplishment."

As Jones went through the process of extending Romo's contract, he studied how quarterbacks fared after their 100th start, knowing Romo would get there this season. He does not view Romo as the traditional 33-year-old quarterback because Romo did not play in his first three seasons. Aikman was 34 when he retired from the Cowboys. Staubach was 37.

"I see a player who's evolved and grown," Jones said. "You have a lot better chance to win now than at when he started his career. We feel there's plenty of quality games remaining not only with his ability but with his experience that will put us in a position to win it all. If you really look at it, there are only a handful of those guys in the NFL."

It's something Jones and Parcells found out about Romo inside Texas Stadium in 2006.